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Signature style: The private e-script tool creating a buzz in community pharmacy

SignatureRx blew the C+D Awards 2023 judges away. So what does it take to run a successful pharmacy-tech business? Its superintendent pharmacist and CEO tells all...

There are some ideas that are so ingeniously simple that it seems almost ridiculous that nobody had ever thought of them before. So it is for SignatureRx – a revolutionary e-prescription tool that digitises private prescriptions.

Founded in 2021 by its superintendent pharmacist and CEO Reece Samani, this clever piece of tech bridges the gap between private healthcare businesses and local community pharmacies. It produces one-off codes sent to patients via SMS or email that corresponds to each private prescription. Patients can go to any pharmacy in the country to get their medicines dispensed; pharmacists simply type the code into a field on SignatureRx’s website to find all the information they need. It’s an all but seamless process, and one that provides efficiency for patients and pharmacies alike.

Judges at the C+D Awards 2023 were bowled over by SignatureRx’s product and Reece’s ambitious plans for the future, crowning this fledgling business the winner in the Online Initiative of the Year category at last September’s ceremony.

Read more: 'The problem within the profession is'... shining a light on pharmacy technicians

Success is nothing new for Reece. This tech entrepreneur and erstwhile C+D blogger was honoured with a place on last year’s prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 list and his locum-booking platform The Locum App scored Online Initiative of the Year at the C+D Awards 2020.

And, as he chats to C+D over a video call, he’s excited to share that there are plans to expand SignatureRx’s scope in the future – although he’s staying tight lipped about the details. “I’ve always been excited about building new things, creating new products and seeing people use [them]” he says.

“We’ll continue doing that – creating more products within pharmacy that people use day in day out that make their life easier, make their business better and improve patient outcomes.”

 

How does it work?

 

Private prescriptions are nothing new. And, as the market for private healthcare grows, there are an increasing number of opportunities for anyone enterprising enough to take advantage of them. As Reece points out, there was a painfully obvious gap in service provision for patients getting private prescriptions, which are often issued during online GP consultations or other appointments at a convenient time for the patient.

“What was crazy was that patients were getting on-demand access to healthcare. So, they could see a private GP remotely, they could see one in person – but the prescription process still involved calling, faxing, posting, emailing [the script] and it seemed so outdated,” he explains. “We wanted to pick things up to make it level with what the NHS offers in its EPS system, so we created SignatureRx to bridge that gap between the upsurge of private GP appointments in the private sector and local community pharmacies and bring them all together.”

Read more: Menopause? Meet the award-winning private pharmacy throwing menopausal women a lifeline

Patients were not aware of just how disconnected the systems between private healthcare and NHS pharmacies were, says Reece. He continues: “They didn’t realise there’s a whole admin team calling these pharmacies saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got a private script to send across, we’ve got an emergency supply, can you accept it?’

“Getting through to a pharmacy on a busy day on the phone is hard enough, then co-ordinating the pharmacy to get their email right over the phone, emailing [the code] across or even using faxes…Patients didn’t realise how clunky that all was. They just thought, I’ve got a prescription, why can’t I pick it up now?”

Now, patients using SignatureRx can truly make picking up their prescriptions work on their own terms. “You typically see a doctor privately because you want on-demand healthcare. And in the same regard, you’d also want on-demand access to your medication. This allows you to take a code into anywhere you want…It gives you that flexibility to choose what pharmacy you walk into,” says Reece.

 

Changing attitudes

 

It's a fantastically convenient concept, and one that quickly appealed to patients. While the business processed about 50 prescriptions in its first month, it is now doing 10 times that number. But it wasn’t initially such a hit with pharmacy teams, says Reece.

“Pharmacies are not used to changing that much; we’re so comfortable with a fax machine,” he says. “The first month, we did like 50 prescriptions on our system and half of those pharmacies called up and were like, ‘What is this prescription? How do I dispense it? I’m not used to it. I don’t want to use it.”

But he notes that the old system of posting private prescriptions had its downsides – both in terms of the convoluted process and from a patient safety perspective. He says: “What I think people miss is that paper prescriptions have been around for so long and they’ve done the trick. But there are so many flaws, like, as a patient, you could duplicate them or lose them or someone could redeem on their behalf and there’s no traceability.

Read more: The GP pharmacist with a prescription for success

“And also, how do you make sure the patient’s getting it quickly? [What] if you have a remote consultation and you post that bit of paper and it gets lost somewhere?”

But putting in a comprehensive “training piece”, including telling pharmacy teams how SignatureRx works, why it’s safe and posting SOPs on the product’s website quickly changed that. “Things naturally picked up,” says Reece.

The surge in brand awareness SignatureRx has seen has spread through “word of mouth” rather than through active marketing, says Reece. “You’ll typically find in the pharnacy space that once one person adapts [to] something, other people will follow on quite quickly. If you know it works well somewhere else, there’s less risk of trying something new.”

He was fortunate that Boots and Well Pharmacy were early adopters of the tool, meaning that locums working at the multiples could spread the word when they went on to work shifts in independents.

Read more: The award-winning community pharmacist leading the charge for DSPs

Now, he says, most pharmacies are familiar with the product. “It’s really cute. My dad, every time he meets someone in the pharmacy space, is like, “Oh, have you heard of SignatureRx? My son has that.” And everyone typically says yes,” he says. “It’s just amazing to see that so many people are familiar with the brand.”

Much of SignatureRx’s success comes down to creating simple, practical solutions to common headaches. As Reece puts it, “a lot of the products we’ve built have been services that I’ve seen a gap in that I would want to use as a patient or a doctor or as a pharmacy myself”. And with a team of seven developers working behind the scenes to work on strengthening his offering, this impressive young pharmacist looks set to continue making waves.

“I’ve always loved the tech side of things,” he says. “When I said I was studying pharmacy, it was like, ‘Oh, you’re going to be working behind a counter.’ But what they really missed was how broad the degree is, firstly in terms of what you can learn but also the opportunities when you qualify.”

Read more: The university schooling its students on equality, diversity and inclusion

But despite all the success that has come from his career in pharmacy so far, Reece admits to being surprised to have won his second C+D Award last year. He says he was “overwhelmed” for a good half an hour after hearing his name being called as the winner and collecting his trophy from the stage. “I was really nervous before,” he laughs. “My watch was like, your heartbeat’s too fast. It was huge – I didn’t expect to win but I was obviously over the moon, I was so happy.”

And as his reputation in the community pharmacy space continues to grow, it’s surely just a matter of time before he’ll have another award to add to the growing collection on his mantelpiece. For whatever Reece Samani turns his hand to next, it is bound to be a roaring success.

The C+D Awards 2024 will take place at The Brewery in London on September 19. Could you or one of your colleagues be crowned as a C+D Award winner? Check out all the categories for the 2024 awards and enter today.

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